highlights of 2020

In late 2019, my colleague and I were having a conversation about the year not being great for either of us and that 2020 would be better–it would be our year. At the time I was struggling to deal with broken trust and crossed boundaries in my relationships, so I was drinking a lot of alcohol to cope. I wasn’t handling things very well.

Despite a global pandemic, 2020 proved to be a far better year. Since my last full-time work contract ended in March, and my college classes ended in April, I had so much free time on my hands that I was able to simply be, not to mention process things I didn’t otherwise have the capacity for before. And thanks to CERB and Klinic’s post trauma counselling program, I had financial and mental health support and didn’t have to worry about finding work or risking my health for a paycheck.

To list some highlights in the bizarre year that was 2020:

Graduating from college and receiving my diploma in communications.

In 2015 I enrolled in the Creative Communications program at Red River College and was “supposed” to graduate in 2017. However, I had a lot of personal things going on during second year and components of my Independent Professional Project (IPP) did not work out the way I planned, so I took two years off and returned in the fall of 2019 to try again. Since the IPP was no longer part of the course, I took Writer’s Craft for two semesters with the other Public Relations specialists.

While the class of 2020 didn’t get to experience an in-person convocation, we were all mailed out a cute little graduation package that included our diploma. Mine is now framed and hanging in my living room above my beloved filing cabinet. I’m super proud of my younger self for deciding to go back to college and complete the program.

Writing, illustrating, and publishing a personal essay.

The Black Hole was my final CreComm product. It’s a creative non-fiction story about relationships, music, obsession, mental health, and abandonment trauma. It was both cathartic and anxiety-inducing to write, and I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to workshop my piece with a group of thoughtful, intelligent women, all while receiving support and feedback from two of my favourite instructors.

Riding my bike around Winnipeg and enjoying nature.

periwinkle lilac blossoms. May 30, 2020

Cycling around Winnipeg is one of my favourite pastimes, especially in the spring when all the cherry trees and lilac bushes are blooming. There’s so much freedom in biking, and with new bike lanes popping up, cycling is becoming a safer activity.

Last year in particular, the City of Winnipeg designated 10 streets to be open routes (which meant no vehicles were allowed to drive more than one block) in order to encourage folks to get outside and be active. I cruised down the majority of these open streets and found new routes and places to relax. One of my new fave spots to sit and watch the sunset is Lyndale Drive Park.

House sitting and taking care of two quirky, cuddly cats.

A friend went to visit her partner in another province and asked me to stay at her place to care for her two older cats, Slurpee and Jerome. It was my first experience with house sitting, and it felt nice that someone trusted me to watch over their cherished animal companions and their home.

Slurpee was a major suck and needed to sit on my lap at least twice a day, otherwise she would protest by chewing on my laptop cord. A couple of her favourite activities were chasing the laser pointer and play-scratching at the pink dining room chairs while lying on her back. Jerome was a bit more independent, but definitely got his share of snuggles when he was in the mood–usually right after eating or before bedtime. He was very chatty and loved to watch me eat food from near or far.

Even though I used to work close to Point Douglas, I had never stayed in the area for any extended amount of time. It was fun to explore the trails and local businesses in the neighbourhood, like Pollock’s Hardware Co-op and Gunn’s Bakery. It was also great to have friends over for one-on-one, physically distant backyard bonfires.

Strengthening my friendships.

Although my friends and I weren’t able to enjoy each other’s company as much as we would’ve liked to, our relationships deepened regardless. Whether by phone call or text message, there were many instances where we openly discussed conflict, addressed misunderstandings, and shared our fears. In other words, we practiced a lot of vulnerability.

For example, after responding to a concern I had, one of my confidants asked me, “How do you feel about this friendship?” It caught me off guard. No one had ever asked me that before. It takes a solid person with a healthy ego to ask that kind of question, be willing to hear feedback, and adjust–if necessary.

I’m very thankful for my close friends and our mutual willingness to say how we really feel. That may sound super basic, but as someone who grew up having their feelings consistently unacknowledged and dismissed, having friends who listen and validate without judgement is extremely healing.

Finishing a mosaic that I started five years ago.

Amsterdam mosaic. November 4, 2020

When I took a mosaic art class at the Winnipeg Art Gallery Studio, I became friends with the instructor, Dimitry Melman Komar, and helped him in assembling his installations for local schools and community organizations. Over the years, Dimitry has been kind enough to share his materials and let me use his home studio to make mosaics of my own.

The above mosaic of a street in Amsterdam was a piece I began in 2015, a couple of years after visiting the Netherlands. The mosaic sat on the shelf for years because I lost my motivation from having a lot of difficulty cutting the tiny window frames. But last year I chose to scrap the frames and finish the mosaic once and for all. It felt very satisfying to finally grout the piece and hang it up.

Volunteering with a local grassroots organization.

I joined local abolitionist group Winnipeg Police Cause Harm and have been learning so much about prisons, policing, disability justice, and sexual and gender-based violence. It’s a little overwhelming realizing how much I don’t actually know, but it’s been really great organizing with such passionate people. The group gives me a sense of community and belonging, which is so important and needed–not only because of the isolation, but also because of my recent exit from the local music community. (More on that later, perhaps?)

Abstaining from alcohol.

On December 30, 2019, I decided to take an indefinite break from drinking. I was spending too much money on booze and it was making me anxious, both financially and emotionally. According to my spending tracker, I spent a total of $1,563.36 on alcohol in 2019–enough for a small vacation!

But I didn’t spend a single penny on alcohol last year. I’m very proud of myself for this accomplishment considering how often I used to turn to drinking when I wanted to numb feelings or escape from problems.

Here’s to another year of art, friendship, community organizing, abstinence, and growth. 🤍

2020 bullet journal cover pages

I started bullet journaling in 2018 after learning about the method from my Public Relations instructor a couple years prior. In past journals I kept pages very simple and minimalist, but this year I decided to add some artwork while sticking to a consistent theme: layers of the earth. Where I got this idea from escapes me, but here are some of my favourite pieces.

The 2020 cover page took me around six hours to complete and the other monthly pages took a couple hours max. It felt meditative and relaxing to draw these while listening to records in my living room.

The materials I used were:

  • Pentel RSVP ballpoint black pen
  • Pigma Micron .35mm black pen
  • Crayola Supertips
  • Prismacolor Premier colored pencils

I’m admittedly novice with high quality colored pencils–I hope to learn more techniques in the future.

flora & farmer photo essay

For last semester’s photojournalism class, I was assigned to complete a photo essay on an event or someone in my community. There were a few ideas floating around in my mind but eventually, I decided to do my essay on Kim Bialkoski. Thankfully she entertained this project and was very accommodating throughout the process.

Kim and I initially met at a Satanic Rights show in 2016, and what stuck with me was her positive attitude, friendliness, and passion for DIY projects. I found it incredibly cool that she operates her own food preservation company, flora & farmer, and I’ve had the utmost respect for her hard work and dedication to her business.

Kimberly Bialkoski, owner and operator of flora & farmer, sits in her living room and browses for apron pattern inspiration online. She intends to make more aprons for when she moves to a bigger kitchen.
An eclectic collection of colourful earrings hangs from a jewelry frame that Kim made using an old picture frame and some mesh.
Kim puts pieces of bread out to sample with her spreads while chatting to customers about her products at the 4th annual Love Local MB event that took place Saturday, March 18 at Canad Inns Polo Park.
A sign displays the prices for flora & farmer pickles and spreads at Love Local MB.
A collection of neatly arranged spreads sits on Kim’s table at Love Local MB.
Kim’s Food Handler Certificate hangs from the wall of her kitchen in The Occidental Hotel on Main Street.
Bright spices for the next batch of Indian curried summer squash heat up in a large pan on the stove in Kim’s kitchen.
In the middle of production, Kim gets a call back from a man looking to rent out kitchen space in his bakery that will be opening up on Portage Avenue in the summer.
Glass jars bathe in a water and bleach mixture before going into the oven to be heat dried.
Ginger, garlic, dried peppers, spices, and cilantro sit on the counter, ready to be put into the jars.
Kim places a single dried pepper into each jar.
With the help of a funnel, Kim pours freshly made brine into each of the jars filled with summer squash, onion, red peppers, and spices.
The jars of Indian curried summer squash are full and ready to be sealed.
Kim snaps a photo of me to share on her flora & farmer Instagram account.

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